Shatford Centre

One of Penticton’s most iconic buildings has lost its head tenant.

The Okanagan School of the Arts announced Wednesday it has until June 30 to vacate the Shatford Centre, after the group was unable to renew its $1-a-year lease with School District 67.

“This is a real disappointment for the OSA and for the community,” OSA president Keith MacIntyre said in a press release.

“Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the OSA was building momentum, collaborating with the local arts community, and looking forward to a bright and exciting future. Now, we’re trying to find a way to keep our programs and our organization alive. With a moratorium on commercial and residential evictions in B.C. because of the pandemic, we did not expect this from SD 67.”

MacIntyre said the OSA suggested a “partnership agreement” after the “near evaporation” of building revenue, but the offer was rejected by SD 67.

School board chairman James Palanio said in a phone interview Wednesday the partnership would have left the district liable for maintenance and insurance of the 99-year-old building.

“That partnership was going to cost us a good amount of operating dollars and we just don’t have that ability right now,” said Palanio.

The district, which is laying off 23 teaching positions next year to cut costs, has no immediate plans to seek out a new tenant, and will actually save money by leaving it empty for now, according to Palanio.

“It’s just unfortunate the way the world is evolving and the way the district is evolving, we’re just not able to help,” he said.

Trouble began brewing last fall, when the OSA went public with complaints about its inability to negotiate a new lease with SD 67 administrators. The dispute centred on capital upgrades required in the building.

The OSA, which should be celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and was the Shatford’s head tenant for nearly a decade, is now seeking help from the public, particularly donated storage space, plus new board members.

The group in March 2019 received a $47,000 bailout from the city that was expected to keep it going for six months. At that time, the building was in need of repairs conservatively estimated to cost $1.4 million.